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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Scott, Legislature wade in murky testing waters

This editorial appeared recently in the News Herald, Panama City.

If Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature were hoping to create jobs, they certainly stimulated the legal profession with two new edicts on drug testing.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to block the governor's executive order requiring some 100,000 state employees be tested for drugs.

Read the editorial in the New Chief here.

The group also is likely to sue to overturn new legislation that requires all welfare recipients to be screened for controlled substances. If they test positive, they lose their benefits.

Like the ACLU, we see these measures as unconstitutional governmental invasions of privacy.

In March, Scott issued an executive order requiring all new hires in state agencies to be drug tested, and for current employees to be tested at least four times a year. That enters murky legal territory.

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of suspicion-less drug testing of public school students on the grounds that their privacy rights are less than those of adult citizens.

But when applied outside the campus, the courts generally have allowed testing of public employees only when there is grounds to suspect drug use, or if the person works in a position with extraordinary national security or safety issues.

Florida agencies already can require employees to be tested when they are suspected of using illegal drugs.

Scott, though, wants to test everyone regardless of whether there is probable cause or whether their job affects public safety. ...

Sorry, that's not how the founders envisioned a republic of individual liberty and restrained government.

Nor is there a strong case to be made that governments' increased powers of interdiction have had a positive effect on demand and usage of drugs.

In fact, a report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded that "repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won."

It's ironic that Florida's new drug-testing mandates come at a time of lean state budgets.

How many tax dollars will be wasted testing the innocent just to catch the few? The "cure" will be more costly to state coffers than the crime.

Florida can't afford this misguided policy, and Floridians can't afford to have their rights violated. These edicts must go. 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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